SLI is dead: Long Live SLI


This article first appeared on Tom’s Hardware

In a surprising turn of events, Nvidia announced that it’s completely killed its current model of SLI, which lets your system run more than one Nvidia graphics cards simultaneously for greater performance. 

Nvidia has transferred all SLI implementation responsibilities to the game developer and game engine and won’t release new SLI driver profiles for the RTX 20-series and older GPUs starting January 1.

“For GeForce RTX 3090 and future SLI-capable GPUs, SLI will only be supported when implemented natively within the game,” Nvidia said. DirectX12 games that already support SLI natively in-game include Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Civilization VI, Sniper Elite 4, Gears of War 4, Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation and Hitman, Nvida noted.

What does this mean for SLI? Nvidia hasn’t done SLI any favors over the past several years. The GTX 900-series was the final architecture by Nvidia to fully support SLI in its entirety, specifically 3-way and 4-way SLI configurations. 

Remember back when 4-way SLI was a thing? (Image Credits: Reddit/r/gamingpc)

Beginning with Pascal, Nvidia started strangling SLI. It began with locking out 3-way and 4-way SLI by requiring a special software key. Eventually, Nvidia dropped the requirement for this software key and, instead, limited these configurations to benchmarks only. Then, Turing debuted and cut off anything beyond 3-card SLI configurations, limiting the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti to 2-way SLI. 

Now, with Ampere, Nvidia has limited SLI to the RTX 3090, which is poised to be one of, if not the best graphics card on the market upon release. But there’s good reason for this. Since its inception, SLI has been riddled with bugs, crashes and inconsistent frame times, resulting in choppy gameplay. Getting the tech working correctly requires a lot of optimization from the game developer and from Nvidia. Additionally, there isn’t a large market of PC gamers running more than one graphics card in their PC. 

With cards like the RTX 3090, SLI becomes redundant due to the cheer performance offered. (Image Credits: Notebookcheck)

With Nvidia dropping SLI support for the RTX 3080 and below, Nvidia can free up resources, allowing its driver teams to work on other things. You might get performance improvements due to low-level API support. Nvidia has stated that SLI’s only purpose right now is to make the fastest gaming rigs in the world, and this is a good way to keep that going.

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